“I’m not eating that.” “That is not the same kind of chicken nugget my mom gives me.” “Ewww, I think I ate a vegetable!” “I only eat mac and cheese.” “You didn’t make it right!” Do any of these sound familiar? If so, you may be living with a picky eater. Many families are living with one, or more picky eaters. Let’s face it, knowing what to feed your children is only half the battle, getting them to eat that food, is a totally different type of battle. Some might say it is a full on war of sorts.
I don’t have Children yet, but I hear about my friends’ struggles with their children’s eating habits. They lament their children’s self imposed limited diet of pancakes, hot dogs, or whatever food item they have deemed acceptable for the moment. I’ve even had one friend warn me that “Chicken nuggets are an evil, evil food that lure children in. Never give them to your (future) child,” she warned “or they will never eat anything else.” She said this jokingly, but it is a real issue that people struggle with everyday. Parents wrestle with giving into their children’s limited choices- just so their child will eat SOMETHING, knowing that the food choice they gave into may not be the most healthy option. Parents want to ensure their child’s body has proper nutrition to grow and mature, but also don’t want them to go hungry. The problem is figuring out how to get them to eat and try those healthy options and enjoy a variety of foods in a way that doesn’t push them away from doing just that.
The academy of nutrition and dietetics has a few tips on how to encourage a healthy relationship with food as your child grows.
The list above is certainly not exhaustive. I think trying a variety of different approaches over a period of time will hopefully yield one which works for your family. Also keep in mind that children grow in spurts. Sometimes, they may not eat as much one day, but make up for it later.
The last thing I will mention is patience. As with many things in parenting, meal times can be a test of patience. Changes will not happen overnight. It is important to try and keep this in mind, and positively reinforce when your children do try new foods and expand their palette.
There are a few other tips from University of California Medical Center which may also help you find ways to help your picky eater open up a little bit.